07 Mar The New Mikasa Hybrid 4.5 By: Tim Hartog Men, Rio 2016 blog Over the last years, FINA has been considering several major rule changes for water polo. These include a shorter course, fewer players, and the use of a smaller ball. The goal of these modifications is to create a faster game that is more exciting to watch. I'm onboard with FINA’s attempts to innovate the game. However, my teammates and I have practiced often with the size 4 women’s ball recommended by FINA. Most of us agree that this smaller ball is simply too light. It doesn’t throw correctly, which leaves our shoulders feeling more sore than ever. Consequently, I have worked with Mikasa to create an alternative. We have developed a new product that is not as big as the standard men’s size 5 ball, but not as small as the women’s size 4 ball. It is a 4.5 size ball called called the Hybrid. In other major sports, ball quality has been adapted to help players maximize their potential. For example, dimples that improve grip have been added to basketballs. Footballs are now made in a more aerodynamic shape that reduces drag and creates a perfect spiral. These changes also benefit fans - no one wants to see receivers dropping passes, or basketballs slipping out of player’s hands. Photo: Gertjan Kooij / Beeldboot. The same logic applies to water polo. Watching a 6 on 5 with the ball zipping from player to player is much more entertaining than two passes and a drop or other similar schemes. Because the Hybrid’s weight falls between the heavy 5 and the overly light 4, players can focus on executing interesting plays with less risk of shoulder problems and/or an ugly passing game. I’ve used the Hybrid often, and while it took some getting used to, it now feels much better than the 4. Women may also prefer the Hybrid over the 4. A women’s team who used the Hybrid in a Sao Paulo Brazil tournament loved the ball because it was easier to skip. Apparently the Hybrid’s size allowed the ball to shoot more quickly off the water. In order for sports to advance, players, coaches, and referees must all be willing to evolve. As the water polo world works to accommodate the upcoming FIFA rule changes, the Hybrid ball is positioned to become the product of the future. The new Tony Azevedo Hybrid ball was just released for preliminary sale on the Mikasa website: http://mikasasports.com/shop/water-polo/wta4-5/. It will also be available on my new website that I plan to launch next week. I want to know about your experiences with the Hybrid, so please feel free to comment on this blog or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.